Judge temporarily halts removal of Confederate monument on U of L campus
A judge has granted a temporary restraining order blocking the removal of a monument recognizing Confederate veterans on the U of L campus.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A judge has ordered workers to stop removing a Confederate monument at the University of Louisville.
Jefferson Circuit Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman issued the restraining order on Monday, the same day a Republican candidate for Congress filed a lawsuit against Mayor Greg Fischer over the action announced last week.
A hearing is set for Thursday. However, County Attorney Mike O'Connell will ask Tuesday for a more time to respond to the lawsuit. If he gets it, the Thursday hearing could be rescheduled.
Everett Corley, one of three candidates in the Republican primary for the 3rd District seat held by Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth, said at a press conference Monday morning that the decision to take down the statue amounts to “book burning.”
“This monument was not built to glorify either side of the Civil War,” he said. “It was to soberly and solemnly remember the countless thousands of veterans killed in the slaughter of war.”
The memorial's inscriptions include, "A Tribute to the Rank and File of the Armies of the South” and “To Our Confederate Dead.”
Fischer and U of L President James Ramsey said last Friday that the statue would be taken down and placed somewhere else in the area. At the time, Fischer said the monument represents the "stain of slavery and racism” and has "no place in a compassionate, forward-looking city."
Fischer said Monday he has heard a range of opinions on moving the 70-foot-tall statue, which was on the edge of the city when it was erected in 1895 by the Kentucky Women's Confederate Monument Association.
"Some people are disappointed it's not being blown up. Other people are being disappointed it is being moved," the mayor said.
He said there is "no process on the books" to handle the proposed removal of the monument. And while he acknowledged the restraining order will slow plans to quickly take down the statue, Fischer said, "We believe we made the right decision."
Corley, who faces fellow Republicans Harold Bratcher and Robert L. DeVore Jr. in the May 17 primary, is joined in the lawsuit by the Sons of Confederate Veterans of Pikeville, Ky.; Fred C. Wilhite of Calhoun, Ky., and Louisville blogger and activist Ed Springston.
Speaking to reporters at the Jefferson County Judicial Center, Corley paraphrased an oft-repeated line from George Orwell's novel 1984.
“History is either changeable, as Orwell warned in 1984,” he said. “He who controls the present controls the future, or the forces of truth and dispassionate recordings of fact must remain ever rigorous and maintain vigilance against the politically incorrect incoherence of mediocre liberal politicians.”
Corley claimed officials haven’t properly studied the cost of removing the statue, and he questioned the legality of the university’s plan to reimburse the city for the work.
In addition, the lawsuit alleges that Fischer and Metro government failed to follow federal historic preservation law, broke the Kentucky Military Heritage Act and violated city ordinances.
In 2002, state legislators overwhelmingly passed a measure meant to protect sites that the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission designates as a “military heritage site.”
Destroying, removing or making other notable changes to those sites without the commission’s approval are now considered misdemeanors and, in some cases, felonies.
The Confederate monument is one of 22 such monuments, buildings and memorials in Jefferson County that were identified as historic as part of a survey published in 2008, according to state records. But it has not been placed in the registry, said Diane Comer, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Heritage Council.
“That is just a list of historic monuments. That does not offer any protection,” she said.
The lawsuit claims the statue will be destroyed, rather than salvaged and relocated. Corley and the other plaintiffs “believe it will be thrown into the Municipal Landfill, along with the numerous other Louisville historical relics the city fathers have ‘salvaged’ over the past few years," according to the lawsuit.
Fischer spokesman Chris Poynter said Monday morning that those allegations are false. “It’s going to be stored and eventually moved to a new location,” he said.
At his press conference, Corley criticized Fischer as well as Ramsey and Yarmuth, who are not part of the lawsuit. Yarmuth praised the decision to remove the statue on Twitter last Friday.
Corley said his candidacy played no role in his decision to file the lawsuit. He previously had sued the head of the Jefferson County Republican Party, claiming he was assaulted at a party event, The Courier-Journal reported.
Corley said Monday that suit “was dismissed. I dismissed it on my own.”
After the press conference ended, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell and Thomas A. McAdam III, Corley's attorney, sparred over the lawsuit at the entrance to the courthouse.
“You can’t just erase history by tearing down monuments," McAdam said. "That’s what the Taliban does, that’s what ISIS does."
O'Connell accused Corley of holding the press conference to "politically grandstand." He also complained of receiving little notice about the lawsuit, not learning of it until late Sunday night.
“We will defend this vigorously," he said.
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